Let’s say you’re at a store browsing clothes.
You pick up one dress and put it down. You pick up another dress and something surprises you about it. You don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s heavier? Maybe it’s more rigid? Maybe it feels tight? Maybe it reminds you of "quality" posts on itaSTYLE? It’s probably the last one. It’s Glenn this time and I’m gonna teach you about how to determine an itabag’s quality using touch, feel, and a little know-how I acquired from my years overseeing an apparel production line.
If you’re like Sonya, you put hours and hours into decorating your bag. Making sure that your itabag is high enough quality to withstand daily use and protect your merch is critical. Alas, we’ve had multiple people at con approach us with bags facing a myriad of problems ranging from broken zippers to shoulder straps that pop out of the socket. They’ll buy the bag just down the aisle only to have it break within the same day, which makes me sad. Then, they come to us to vent and ask for advice after getting refused a refund from the booth they bought it from.
Eager to please, we’ll happily instruct them where and how to get the bag repaired. But, we can't undo what's been done. Low quality bags usually aren’t worth the effort to get repaired, and the bag will typically find itself in the trash before it even had a chance at life. This makes me extra sad. Buying a better bag saves time, money, and merch in the long run. But, better bags cost more money up front, and may not be available with the specific colors or features you desire.
Hold back on that impulse and examine! Break the vicious cycle of fast fashion! Don't make me sadder than I already am! There are plenty of great bags out there, I want to help you find them!
Evaluate by stitch, weight, and fold. I’ll go into detail on each below.
Stitch is the most important component when looking at a bag. To determine the quality of stitching, ask yourself the following questions:
What is stitched to what?
Is there reinforcing?
Are there any loose threads?
Is there enough stitching?
What is stitched to what? Fabric should be stitched to fabric of the same type. Each fabric has a recommended stitch count determined by the fabric’s weave. If a fabric A is sewn to fabric B, eventually the movement between them will cause the stitch to come undone. To prevent this, fabric B should be sandwiched between two layers of fabric A, with the stitch traveling through it.
Reinforcing? What reinforcing, you ask? In a good bag, there should be something between the sandwiched layers of fabric. It’ll help hold the material together. You can tell by bending the seam - does it feel stiff? If it does, it’s either a sturdy stitch, it has an adhesive, or a spine to provide form. All of these are good things. If the bag’s seams fold incredibly easily, it’s a red flag, as that movement will eventually undo the seam. These two reasons are why there is a thick rim on the edge of the vinyl window on all our bags, this sandwiching holds the window together.
Loose threads? This one is can be terribly troublesome or completely harmless. If you see long, loose threads, it’s a sign you should investigate the bag thoroughly. It means that either the threads weren’t cut at the stitch’s completion, which could be harmless - or that the bag is on its way to becoming undone and that the stitching is too loose. This is commonly caused by the Fabric A/B scenario listed above.
Is there enough stitching? What is “enough”? This one is a bit trickier. Try to imagine the bag fully loaded - what areas carry the brunt of that weight? The straps, obviously. Does there seem to be enough stitching on the straps? If you pull the straps in a direction that they’re not intended to go, does the stitching become exposed in a way that will allow it to get damaged or let things get between the fabric layers? Aside from the straps, does the bottom stitching seem redundant enough to protect carry the weight of a fully loaded bag? With time, you’ll come to understand what is enough stitching.
Unlike nylon, polyester, or jute - pleather and canvas are very heavy materials. Luckily, we can use this to our advantage when determining a bag’s quality!
Hold the bag and rotate it around several times. Swing it a bit. It should feel heavy regardless of which angle you’re holding it at. I’ve seen some itabags where the vinyl window felt oddly light, and I unzipped it to discover that the window back is made of a cheaper material than the rest of the bag. Upon further inspection, I saw the window back was already starting to pill and tear. In addition, the stitching inside was already starting to come undone from multiple fabrics being haphazardly stitched together. Remember to toss & spin!
When looking to buy clothing, you try to find something that conforms and folds to your body, right? Try doing the opposite when shopping for an itabag, or any durable handbag or backpack.
A little flexibility is good, but ask yourself: Do you really want your charms being shaken around, resetting their arrangement every time you take the bag off? Do you want your safety pins wiggling their way into your bag’s material? Do you want your chain or merch rubbing against the vinyl window with each step? We always recommend buying or making a backing to further prevent this kind of problem.
Check the vinyl or pleather for creasing or scratching. Light creasing can be undone, but heavy creasing or scratching is often a result of inferior material or improper storage. For example, we store all our pleather Affectuators stuffed, wrapped, and upright. This protects the window from scratching and protects the bag from getting deformed due to the weight of those above it. Any quality pleather can break down and flake if left creased for too long, and low quality pleather will retain a shape that it’s stuck in for a moderate amount of time.
After handling a few bags with this appraisal focused mindset, you’ll be able determine a bag’s quality within a few seconds. Remember to be objective when approaching bags and never give in to impulse! Your bag is a canvas for you to decorate or build upon, make sure its a good one. If you want a bag with a ribbon, buy a good bag and put a ribbon on it!!
Remember that you’re fighting in a war for great taste and your merch is at stake.
That concludes this article of itaSTYLE.
Stay roosted for our next issue!
— Glenn from the Co-Kan Flock ▲
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